Devotional – January 2, 2021

Carolyn Wood’s Devotional

Jesus Loves Me – 1860

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

Anna and Susan Warner lived in a lovely townhouse in New York City where their father, Henry Whiting Warner, was a successful lawyer. But the “Panic of 1837” wrecked the family’s finances, forcing them to move into a ramshackle Revolutionary War-era home on Constitution Island on the Hudson, right across from the Military Academy at West Point.

Needing to contribute to the family income, Anna and Susan began writing poems and stories for publication. Anna wrote “Robinson Crusoe’s Farmyard,” and Susan wrote, “The Wide, Wide World.” The girls thus launched parallel literary careers which resulted in 106 publications, eighteen of them co-authored.

One of their most successful joint projects was a novel titled Say and Seal in which a little boy named Johnny Fox is dying. His Sunday School teacher, John Linden, comforts him by taking him in his arms, rocking him, and making up a little song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. . . .”

The novel became a best-seller, second only to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and when hymnwriter, William Bradbury read the words of John Linden’s little song (written by Anna), he composed a childlike musical score to go along with them. “Jesus Loves Me,” soon became the best-known children’s hymn on earth.

Despite their success, the Warner sisters never seemed able to recover from the staggering financial reverses of 1836. Years later a friend wrote, “One day when sitting with Miss Anna in the old living room she took from one of the cases a shell so delicate that it looked like lace work and holding it in her hand, with eyes dimmed with tears, she said, “There was a time when I was very perplexed, bills were unpaid, necessities must be had, and someone sent me this exquisite thing. As I held it, I realized that if God could make this beautiful home for a little creature, He would take care of me.”

For forty years, Susan and Anna conducted Bible classes for cadets at West Point, and both were buried with full military honors. They are the only civilians buried in the military cemetery at West Point. To this day, their home on Constitution Island is maintained by West Point as a museum to their memory.

In these days of uncertainty I have come to appreciate the little things afforded to me and my family every day. Openly expressed gratitude has become the order of the day as we gather around the dinner table each night, sharing memories and dreams of what may come. Although we miss greatly gathering with friends and other family members, we revel in what we have and look forward to a brighter time. It is the hope provided by faith that brings us to this place.

I cannot remember the first time I sang that beloved, “Jesus Loves Me”, but I have been told about my first performance in church when at the age of 3, I stood up to sing it in public for the first time. The description of my mother was that it was “precious”, but my brother, who was a bit more critical imitated a much rawer rendition than I could imagine coming out of my mouth.

Many years later, I heard Sandy Patti give a presentation which included her evolution in singing this song. It is provided for you below. I hope it brings a smile to your face. Over the past few years I borrowed and made my own this performance and used it frequently at assisted living homes. It was a favorite of the residents and always brought smiles and laughter.

The knowledge that I was loved by Jesus was and still is bolstered by the singing of this simple song which was born out of desperation. As we face the coming days and pray for a better year, may we all remember to pull this little song out of our pockets and treasure the words, full of hope and promise for a better tomorrow. We sing a modified version today, but these are the original verses:

Vs. 1. Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.

Vs. 2. Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in.

Vs. 3. Jesus take this heart of mine, Make it pure and wholly Thine. Thou has bled and died for me, I will hence-forth live for Thee.

Vs. 4. Jesus loves me! He will stay, Close beside me all the way; He’s prepared a home for me, And some day His face I’ll see.

Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.

Sandy Patti:

May God continue to bless you with His Love!